Win Free Motorcycle Tires!

Answer Keith Code's question about fundamental riding skills correctly and you could win a set of Dunlop Sportmax Qualifier 2 tires!

In his "Code Break" column in the January 2010 issue of Motorcyclist magazine, rider-training guru Keith Code asked readers to name "at least 10 fundamental riding skills that are irreplaceable for any rider interested in gaining confidence with traction." Code gave away the first answer-"good throttle control"-for free. Send your best guess as to what the other nine skills might be, along with an email address and telephone number that you can be reached at, to mcmail@sorc.com. If you've got enough correct answers included in your list, we'll enter your name in the drawing for the Dunlop tires! All entries must be received by January 5, 2010.

Here's Code's complete column, to get your wheels turning:

By Keith Code

There are around one million words in the English language. While Italian has less than a quarter of that, it nonetheless has a word for the ring a wet glass leaves on a table. English doesn't. Similarly, our vocabulary of words about riding, while often descriptive, is limited.

There are many things riders sense that haven't been named. Take the moment you notice you've entered a corner too fast. How about the progression of feel that tires give you under different cornering loads, speeds and lean angles? Would it help if we had words to describe them?

Eskimos have a variety of words for snow. Similarly, dirt-trackers have descriptive language for dirt, like "cushion" where the dirt is loose, moist and very consistent so you can feel the tire bite. It can have an even finer distinction if it is a "deep cushion." The dirt can become a "blue groove," where tire rubber builds up and becomes bluish in color and very grippy. That usually happens on the pole-the tight and low, inside line. You can hear the tires squeal from the grip on it. When that happens, they might say the track "grooved up." Where there is loose stuff over hard pack, it's called "fuzzy"-traction is vague and it's slippery. The dirt can be "tacky" even if it doesn't groove up, and so on. Suspension adjustments, gearing, shut-off points, tire pressures, steering-damper settings, where you ride and how you ride all depend on what character the dirt has that day.

There is no universally agreed-upon language for road/race tire feel and grip. Both changed with the advent of radial tire technology. The first ones were squirmy until they set in the turn; they gave a very different range of impressions than did the earlier, bias-ply tires. They also opened the door for more confident braking while leaned over.

Traction is important to street and track riders. If we had terms to accurately describe our tires' progression of feel, it would be a huge step forward, because traction worries most riders.

Tire development testers and engineers have created a rapport to describe how different constructions and rubber compounds respond. Wouldn't it be nice to get an info sheet describing a tire's feel under different loads, lean angles and cornering conditions? What are the tire's slide and grip characteristics? What happens after the "gritty/grabby" feel goes away? What are the impending signs of disaster? When you feel it spin, should you pick up the bike, stop your roll-on or continue to roll it on? Wouldn't it be nice to know?

Riders semi-consciously cope with these sense perceptions, but without accurate words to describe the signals tires give us, they go right by us without resolution or understanding.

You could say that track surface, temperature, suspension settings and riding style could all have an effect on how a tire sticks, and you would be right. Watching the Michelin crew pull a high-tech surface-impression data-gathering machine around Laguna Seca a week before the USGP three years ago gave another picture of where tire technology stands. The track-surface information went to France, and tires built from that data came back for the races. During the weekend, track temperatures were cooler than expected and the tires didn't work.

There may actually be too many variables preventing the writing of that tire-feel info sheet. From a training perspective, I know there are at least 10 fundamental riding skills that are irreplaceable for any rider interested in gaining confidence with traction. None of these are related to bike setup; I'm talking purely about basic skills. Good throttle control is one of them. Can you name the others?